November 20, 2015 The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience Marches On New Orleans, LA 10-31-15
Usually, the second day of The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience is the busiest, being a Saturday and the weekend proper. The performances begin early and run late. The locals, fresh off a full work week arrive and want to unwind. This year, Saturday was also October 31st and, as such, many fans would be dressed in full Halloween regalia. And many were. However, along with the many high hopes for the Saturday, October 31st performances at The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, there were plenty of obstacles Mother Nature had in store. Yet somehow the faithful braved the elements.
Before the rain and the mud, it was just Voodoo. Voodoo as it has always been was part festival, part art exposition, part amusement park, part costume party and part musical voyage. Festival goers stuffed their faces with food, engaged in retail therapy (purchasing band memorabilia, festival T-shirts, artwork, posters, and various wares from the vendors littered across the grounds), rode the ferris wheel and other rides and viewed the art installations. And, amid an audience of hammerhead sharks, pirates, ghosts, ghouls, skeletons, doctors, Playboy Bunnies, clowns, cats, strippers, gorillas, various dominatrices (the plural of dominatrix for those who are not English majors) and slaves, doctors, sexy nurses, and numerous other costumes, there was the music. Despite the call for heavy rain, as well as tornado forecasts for parts of the region, the festival made it through the early morning with only a few quick drizzles and small periods of precipitation. Shortly after noon, the real rains began. Before the downpour, short rainstorms came and went and came back again, keeping the foreboding and ominous skies dark and cloudy. Thankfully the music went on and spectators stuck it out for good reason.
Though they performed earlier in the day on the Carnival Stage, this band’s acoustic performance at Toyota Music Den was nothing short of astonishing. Its acoustic performance in the tent treated the fans to an up-close and personal chance to say that they “saw them way back when.” As the rain poured down on the small tent, the performance featured an amazing version of “Put Your Money On Me” from the Have You Heard EP (Interscope/Polydor, 2015) and a great cover of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”
Recently, this Houston-based Soul band opened for Lionel Richie in Austin, TX. On Saturday, at Voodoo, as the day’s first performers to grace The Alter stage, the neo-retro band, led by its amazing vocalist Kam Franklin, resembled almost anything other than a group that would have opened for Lionel Ritchie. The 10 musicians all dressed as Andrew W.K., wearing long black wigs, stage-blood stained faces and white blood stained t-shirts. The band’s high-energy set combined keyboards, congas, horns and guitars as they proudly showcased songs from the Make Some Room EP (Rhyme And Reason Records, 2015) and the upcoming full-length debut album.
Amid flash flood and tornado warnings, the Rochester, NY natives (guitarist Joseph Morinelli, drummer Paul Brenner, bassist Sean Donnelly, keyboardist Benjamin Bailey and vocalist Daniel Armbruster) rocked the Carnival Stage. Thankfully the Indie Rockers, who were touring behind its first album How Do You Feel Now? (Cultco Music/Hollywood Records, 2015), played prior to the heavy rain and delivered the kind of set that all young band only hope for. They delivered a fantastic set of melodic, wistful Pop Rock and had the crowd’s full attention–no small feat considering the warnings and the soft drizzle that fell from the sky. Armbruster even managed to get the dripping audience to chuckle when he announced, “We’re totally getting soaked, just like all of you.” Highlights of the band’s set included “Somebody New” which caused audience members to crowd closer to the stage, “Destruction” and “Tongues.”
Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective
Hitting The Flambeau stage just before the deluge, Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective delivered a ferocious and powerful set of adventurous, innovative music–a funkified fusion of Jazz, R&B and Bluesy grooves. Blanchard and his band (bassist Donald Ramsey, guitarist David Mooney, Fabian Almazan on piano and drummer Oscar Seaton) played a set that centered mostly on his most recent release Breathless (Blue Note, 2015). It was during the new piece, “Dear Jimi” (a tribute to the late guitarist) that the day’s long awaited, and feared, heavy rains finally arrived. Blanchard and his band played as if the weather had never changed. The audience was so enthralled that they remained in place as the band roared through its set. The only concession made to the weather was when Blanchard and the roadies moved his synthesizer and covered his laptop and moved Mooney’s rig away from the front edge of the stage.
Had it not rained, Blanchard and the E-Collective’s set would have been considered legendary. It was amazing, but because of the weather it will be remembered as being very good. Many, however, will always remember the day for the messy, wet and severe conditions which Ramsey later described as being “kinda sloppy out there…”
Canadian artist Peaches’ set coincided with the heaviest rainfall of the whole weekend. She took the stage precisely as the torrent of rain fell and, even though her usual risqué, in your face stage persona was in full force, the smaller crowd that surrounded the stage was more subdued. With backup singers dressed in vagina costumes, Peaches brought her A game in New Orleans. she attempted to rouse the crowd with numbers like “Dick in the Air” from this year’s release RUB. She cajoled the audience, saying,” I’ve been singing this for 3 minutes and I don’t see one dick in the air. Those are hands. I know the difference.” If the weather had cooperated, her set would have been a full out party.
In true Santigold fashion, this gem of an artist performed at the LaPlace Elementary School in celebration of a VH1 Save the Music Grant, which will put a music education back in the classrooms for students there for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. Prior to her set on Saturday night, she told the crowd, “You’re wet, you’re tired and you’re probably hungry. I’m going to try a new song, then I’m gonna give you guys donuts.” Sure enough, two of her dancers passed out dozens of Dunkin Donuts to the fans crowding the railing. In addition to the free donuts, her set was highlighted by “You’ll Find a Way,” “LES Artistes,” “Creator” and “Disparate Youth.”
Georgio Moroder made his bones producing Donna Summer, Irene Cara, Berlin, and others in the late ’70s and eraly ’80s. In addition, he produced the best-selling soundtrack albums for Scarface, Midnight Express, The Neverending Story, Cat People and Top Gun. In the early evening on Saturday, in the rain and muck, the 75-year-old pioneering DJ had the mud-people dancing to songs that were released before many of them were even born. In fact, some of them may have been conceived to a soundtrack of the retro-hits that Moroder spun.
Moroder had the audience bopping and grooving to Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” “MacArthur Park,” “Hot Stuff,” Bad Girls” and “I Feel Love,” Limal’s “Neverending Story,” “Call Me” and many other dance-pop hits that he either influenced or was a major contributor in its creation. Moroder is not a live DJ and as such, the dance music pioneer’s set moved from song to song rather than delivering a smooth mix that sounded like one long track with various movements. Instead, he mixed like an ’80s club DJ while providing the older members of his audience with a trip down memory lane. The younger members in the crowd were left with an excellent history lesson and an introduction to this hit-making genius.
Taking the main stage before Ozzy and friends, Jane’s Addiction put on an incredible set. Vocalist Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney (back after founding bassist Eric Avery’s second departure in 2010), took those who braved the weather on a ride that they won’t soon forget.
Farrell was clearly in a playful mood as he talked about the band’s early days playing at Tipitina’s. “Is Professor Longhair still around?,” he asked the crowd, with a sly grin, full well knowing the answer. He followed up with, “Is his spirit still around?” and the audience went nuts. He also made a sly reference to the downpour as well as the well documented issues from his past. With a laugh and a grin on his face he stated, “People said, ‘Don’t go out tonight, seek higher ground,” so I started getting high…”
The band delivered an amazing set featuring “Stop!” (a fitting choice for an opening number because of the rain), “Ain’t No Right” from 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual (Warner Brothers), “Mountain Song,” “Up The Beach” (played during the rain), “Been Caught Stealing” and “Ocean Size,” during which the rain stopped. During the shocking theatrical spectacle of the main set-ending “Whores,” two women were suspended by hooks in their flesh and flew above and around the stage. The one and only encore was a tour de force version of “Jane Says” featuring steel drum accents.
Public Image Ltd
Public Image Ltd was scheduled on the Carnival stage almost directly opposite Jane’s Addiction. Sadly, they were also scheduled to begin slightly after Farrell and company, so they also had the misfortune of playing during the rain. When they did hit the stage, approximately fifteen minutes late, they battled both the rain and the sound bleed from Jane’s Addiction over on the main stage. However, that did not stop John “Rotten” Lydon and his band (guitar player Lu Edmonds, drummer Bruce Smith and bassist Scott Firth) from taking the audience on a wild ride. The band soldiered on and battled back effortlessly, their sound from their smaller stage washing over the competition. The very enthusiastic crowd was thrilled to see the 59-year-old Lydon, who stalked the stage and stared down his audience while mentally daring them to not stay in the rain to listen to the band’s set. It obviously worked as many of the audience members stood in place, enrapt and motionless during the performance except between songs when they would chant the singer’s name.
Ozzy and Friends
The crowd spanned the generations–millennials to middle-aged to even older. After all, Ozzy has been at it for over 40 years. Unfortunately, due to the weather (it had been raining steadily for hours when Ozzy hit the stage), Osbourne’s crowd was a bit smaller than that of Florence + The Machine the previous evening.
Wearing an all black outfit with a maniacal grin on his face Ozzy kicked his performance off with “I Don’t Know.” Though his voice on the opening number was not as powerful as many would have hoped, he more than made up for it with his devilish enthusiasm. His fourteen song, plus two encore, set covered all facets of his career with Black Sabbath and solo. Tom Morello was Ozzy’s first guest, joining Osbourne for the solo classics “Mr. Crowley” and “Bark at The Moon.” He was clearly in his glory.
Ozzy then performed “Suicide Solution,” “Shot in The Dark” and “Rat Salad” before being joined by Slash and Morello. If Morello was giddy and in his glory (he even had a handwritten “Ozzy Rules Sign” taped to the back of his guitar), Slash was the picture of calm and cool in his signature top hat. The group then played killer versions of “Iron Man” and “N.I.B.” It was now time for Geezer Butler’s entrance, as the audience by this time had been whipped into a wet and muddy but happy frenzy. Butler shined and added credibility to Black Sabbath’s “Snowblind,” “Behind The Wall of Sleep,” “War Pigs” and “Faeries Wear Boots.”
Ozzy again took control, telling the crowd to “have fun in the rain” while making sure that he did the same. His enthusiasm was infectious as he transformed into a drenched Jesus belting out the lyrics to “Crazy Train” while holding a beer in one hand and his glowstick halo in the other. The encores began with “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and ended with an amazing version of “Paranoid” featuring Morello, Slash and Butler rockin’ out while Osbourne was, well, Ozzy. Though many might feel that he is slightly daft, in reality Osbourne is a calculating genius. He doused the already soaked crowd with water from a fire hose and then thanked them for braving the “fucking dreadful weather.” He got on his knees, bowed to the crowd and professed his love to his fans. The audience ate it up and Osbourne had their undivided attention, with each and every fan hoping that he would return for the elusive “one more song.” It was brilliant.
Though the event was reduced to a two day affair, there were plenty of highlights musical and otherwise. Unfortunately, deadmau5, The Ludlow Thieves, The Zac Brown Band, Third Eye Blind, Slighly Stoopid, Dumpstafunk, The Cult, Eric Prydz, Chance The Rapper, Fishbone and Quickie Mart, among others, were scheduled for Sunday, but got rained-out. However, the performances which did take place were top notch and the crowd sighting of revelers who went the extra mile with their Halloween outfits was clear evidence of the special atmosphere and power of both New Orleans and Voodoo. As always, some of the best outfits were worn by the performers–and not just by Ozzy, whose Prince of Darkness costume is actually his everyday wardrobe.